Garden Harvest: GKH Staffers Share Fond Childhood Memories

By Nikki Tilley | August 3, 2020
Image by Yana Tatevosian
by Nikki Tilley
August 3, 2020

We all have fond childhood memories that make us smile, and for many of us here at Gardening Know How, these stem from the garden. In fact, one of my fondest memories was playing in the backyard patio garden at my grandparents’ house.

I didn’t get to see them often, but when I did, this was the place I wanted to be. Grandpa grew the most amazing strawberries, my favorite fruity treat, and I would always sneak some of those tasty morsels as I played. Then I would sit quietly by the koi pond and stuff my face. He thought the birds were getting them. I still think of this each time I take a bite into a juicy, fresh-picked strawberry – homegrown just like Grandpa’s.

Childhood Memories in the Garden

It’s no secret that getting children involved with gardening or nature in some way can create a lasting impression, and maybe even a passion for growing plants. I posed the question, “What is your fondest gardening memory” to my Gardening Know How family, and it turns out that most of us enjoy eating fresh-from-the-garden harvests!

But many of us also harvested something else – a natural love for gardening. So here’s some of our fruitful childhood memories and a look at how we got started simply by watching our parents and grandparents in their gardens.

Heather Rhoades commented, “My favorite gardening memory is when my mom used to make us stop by the side of the road to pick up rocks for her garden. I was always so embarrassed that someone we knew might see us. But today, for my own garden, I stop and pick up all kinds of free things for my garden and I don’t care who sees me.” Looks like rocks aren’t the only thing she picked up – a love for gardening and frugality lives on.

Becca also admitted to an embarrassing gardening memory. “When I was young, I watched Bugs Bunny eating all those carrots, so I asked Grandpa to plant some. He put in a whole crop and I hated them! I remember them asking me why I’d asked for carrots in the first place”¦bottom line, don’t plant a whole crop for a kid without asking some questions.”

Bonnie reminisced about how her grandpa made ice cream every summer. “Nothing like real ice cream. Grandma would make rhubarb sauce and we would pour it warmed up over the ice cream. Amazing!” Rhubarb looks to be a popular treat among coworkers. Past Q&A member Stacey (we miss you by the way) has fond memories of eating rhubarb at her grandparents. “They would cut us each a stalk and give us a little cup of sugar to dip the ends in. Summer childhood treat!

Lots of harvesting and eating of the pickings, as I did with strawberries, are embedded in many of our recollections – which just proves that garden-grown fruits and veggies can’t be beat. “We had a big vegetable garden in our backyard,” commented Mary Ellen, “and I loved picking the veggies. Sugar snap peas were my favorite. I’d eat one pod for each one that went into the basket.”

Tyler, one of our Q&A experts, shared his thoughts too. “My favorite childhood memories were harvesting all of the produce from the massive gardens my grandparents kept. Corn fields that you could get lost in, tomato patches that you could stuff yourself with (and not even notice that any were missing from the vines), strawberries just the same, and other good memories of abundance. The whole walk was usually filled with learning about the plants that I consumed, and how to grow them.”

Bonnie’s sister Amy said, “My first memory of “helping” mom in the garden was when my sister and I were about 6 years old. We were going to go on our first trip to Disneyland, and if that wasn’t exciting enough, my overworked mom, who worked full time, offered to pay us a penny per flower to deadhead the dandelions since she didn’t have time to weed before the trip. I don’t remember what we made, but it was my first job and I’m sure we spent it on penny candy!”

“Another memory that comes to mind,” she added, “is about feeding our clubhouse members from our garden. We had formed a club complete with tree fort and some of the neighborhood kids”¦ and the job of feeding the members rotated. Some kids brought PB&J sandwiches and another kid brought cinnamon toothpicks (remember those?). When it came to my sister and me, we ravaged our garden and brought Green Gage plums, carrots, apples and green onions. Yep, green onions.”

It’s not just us gardeners that enjoyed plucking the fruits of our parents’ and grandparents’ gardens. Laura had a pet duck as a child that liked to sneak down to the garden and eat the ripe vegetables. “As soon as he heard us come outside,” she said, “he’d try and ‘hide’ by flattening his body close to the ground as he waddled out of the garden. But we always knew when he’d gotten into the hot peppers because he’d have the hiccups!”

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  • Carol Linklater
    Comment added August 8, 2021Reply

    You brought back memories of visiting a favourite aunt's home where she had a small garden. When I was close to age three, she gave me a handful of yellow bean seeds and showed me how to plant them in her prepared soil. Pure magic !
    I've always had a garden of some sort or other wherever I lived from then on, including now when I am 74. It's still magic.

  • Patricia Toombs
    Comment added August 24, 2020Reply

    I was a kid in the 30's and 40's. My parents had lived through the great depression, and after business was so bad at his dry goods store (that was what they called a hardware store those days in Texas) he was able to sell his store and moved us to the farm. Every year, my mother raised a large garden and my Dad grew fields of black eye peas, watermelon, corn and peanuts. I picked bugs off plants and helped plant onion sprouts and other garden vegetables. I also had to help shuck corn, shell peas and churn butter by hand. My mother canned everything she could. We picked wild blackberries, muscat grapes, and plums that grew wild in that part of East Texas. I did not feel the effects of the depression as far as going hungry. We lived with no electricity and drew our water from a well. I was always a happy child.

  • Robbie Ladd
    Comment added August 23, 2020Reply

    I don't have too many memories of gardens in my childhood. As an adult, I wanted to have a vegetable garden, which I did with the help of my Husband. When it was time to water and weed, I was pretty much alone. While doing those mundane garden chores, all alone, my children would come have private chats with me. Those are wonderful memories. We solved problems and made plans. This time with them, one-on-one, proved to be very valuable. They have developed a few garden skills themselves. I don't know if they remember those private chats. I do and always will.

  • Carol
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    I will always love zinnias and get a thrill every time I see them. As a small child seeing a seed pack of them attached to a Fritos bag, my curiosity and followup interest in the idea of planting seeds and getting the flowers pictured awarded me the task. They grew and bloomed and beckoned butterflies. My mother knew it was lasting gift because she had been introduced to gardening by her parents and always loved beautiful flowers more than edible crops.

    • Carol Staha
      Comment added August 7, 2021Reply

      I felt confused reading this, it was if I had written it; I too planted the zinnia seeds attached to the Fritos bag and absolutely always think they are the best flower of all. My Mom couldn't find a place for edibles, because she loved flowers sooo much.

  • Tim Moore
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    My grandparents lived in the middle of Oregon farm country in an unincorporated community, and I spent summers at their house picking strawberries and green beans for money. The house had a detached garage, and my fondest memory was the row of sweet peas my grandmother raised along the side of it. I will never forget the smell of them in the morning.

  • Kathy Whitlock
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    One of my favorite memories as a parent, is recalling the small plot within our own larger garden we gave each child to plant and tend. It really took with our youngest daughter. I can still see her now, bending over her little plants with her bib overalls on, working next to her Dad. She now has a huge garden! As they say, "bend the twig and in that way it will grow".

  • Dee Hammons
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    My grandmother's garden, a magical place from which sparkling jars of bright berry jams, pickled veggies and fruit lined the kitchen shelf winking out at me in the morning sun when I arose. One summer she planted bean poles into t-pee shaped cones that I crawled inside of and daydreamed away the afternoon in the splashes of sunshine and green comfort.

  • Eileen
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    One of my favorite memories was gathering "poppers" (seed pod of impatiens) with my three grandchildren - they carefully pick the "poppers" so they wouldn't break open and spill
    the seeds on the ground. Oh no, these seeds were carefully opened right into an
    envelope which was saved until they thought it was the right time to plant their
    "poppers" into their own gardens, and carefully tended them and waited for them to
    grow and bloom - into flowers from Grandma's garden.

  • Carolyn Roof
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    Interessting memories.

    My first garden memory is not on about me told many times over, but what I actually remembeer.

    I loved my doll and playing dress up with her. My grandmother had a wonderful backyard vegetable garden the fron of which was seveeral plants whose foliage was just the perfect colorful 'skirt material' for my doll. About the time I was putting the skirt on my doll, my drandmother came running out of house and told me I was never to tough it again. She quietly explained that the leaves were poisonous but she grew the plant for me as the rhubarb stems made my favorite pie. That was my first garden lesson.

  • Dennis Osborne
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    I grew a lot of peas that needed shelling before freezing. My three daughters had the job of doing the shelling before swimming in the nearby lake. As an incentive I gave them a dollar for each pod that they came across that held nine peas. They did not earn much money but did take their time shelling.

  • Elaine Balogh
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    My fondest memory of all was when my dad would make a tepee of sticks for his pole beans. As they grew and provided shelter and shade within, my sister and i would have our lunches in our very own tepee--nothing better than a mason jar of ice cold pepsi with our lunch!! This gave all four of us kids a real love of gardening, and 70 plus years later, we are all still gardening.

  • Roxanne Turnbull
    Comment added August 22, 2020Reply

    Now my husband and I are retired, we built a wonderful greenhouse. It turned out to be more of a project but we were able to start some veggies. Our strawberries were wonderful and my husband ate them right off the plants. Living at 8,000 ft in the mountains of Colorado we planted green peppers, carrots, lettuce,& broccoli. We have high hopes all will produce and plan planting for next year a little earlier. At least nothing has died yet!

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